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Sermon from Nov. 8, 2015
Brother Joseph Barr

Psalms 139:7-10 ďWhere can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.

For the next few Sundays Iím going to be preaching lessons from the book of Jonah. The reason Iím glad to preach from Jonah is because this is a lesson of good news and everybody likes good news. All of us have that same feeling and I know the best news would be like Publishers Clearing House knocking on your door. But the good news today will be my last point.
I want us to consider some things. Consider Psalms 139:7 and following: ďWhere can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. ď I want us to consider the fact that there is no place that we can go on this earth to get away from God. Even if you die and go to hell, even there, God is there. ď
The first point in this lesson is what life is like outside of Godís presence. A lot of people are living outside of the presence of God. Now, we just got done saying we canít get away from Godís presence but you can separate yourself spiritually. In Isaiah 59, the Bible says sin separates us from God. So if you are a sinner, you are in fact living outside of Godís presence.
Point number 2: Iím going to talk about life in the belly of the fish and point 3 will be that salvation is truly of the LordÖ.thatís the good news. Do you want to be saved? Hereís how I want you to hear thisÖIím not just talking about saving our souls. Iím talking about salvation from the burdens, trouble, problems, and situations of life in the belly of the fish. Jonah tried to run from his obligation. He tried to run in the opposite direction and he ran into a problem. But God stopped him. Jonah is an objective lesson about how God can forgive anyone. Jonah made the mistake that a lot of people make. When you run from God, in a life of sin, and choose to do evil rather than right, we try to live the way we want to live and do what we want to do, things donít generally turn out the way we expect. We run from God. We run from church. We have no time for Jesus and donít want to spend time with the Holy Spirit. So we run from our obligation. And we know we have an obligation to serve God. Everybody knows that. But I want you to know that when you run, itís not going to turn out like you expect.
When you try to live outside of God, our sins and iniquities keep us from Godís presence. Unfortunately, as adults, what we choose to do affects our children. If youíre a grown person, life isnít just about you anymore. Itís about those little people that you brought into the world and you are raising. Jesus said if you offend or cause one of these little people to stumble, it would be better if you were cast into the sea. In other words, Jesus says ďIím going to throw some people in the deepest part of Hell because of the negative influence on children.Ē
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says this: ďĒLife is hard but to a Christian, life is victorious. God has given us the ability to walk on water through his son Jesus Christ. Thatís what that story was about. Jesus wants us to keep our eye on him and walk on top of life, rather than living in the belly of the fish. We should be able to stand above everything that tries to knock you down so that you can rise above it. Iím so glad to be a Christian! Iíve been through some stuff but here is Joey Barr rising above it!
Jesus knows most people are burdened down and He says, come, and I will give you rest. Paul says this in Romans 6:21, ďWhat fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.Ē In other words, in this life youíre living youíre not bearing fruit. Itís a life that leads to death. Jonah gives us a description of what life is like in the belly of the fish. Listen to some commonalities that you might already been familiar with. I find it very interesting that now that the fish has swallowed him whole, he starts to pray. Jonah 2:1-5, ďI cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, And He answered me. ďOut of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice. 3 For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me. 4 Then I said, ĎI have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.í 5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.Ē You ran from God, you ran from your obligations, and now youíre in the belly of the fish. God doesnít want you to suffer with weeds wrapped around your head. Instead of a place of holiness, youíve chosen wickedness and sin, with all the debris of life all around you. Youíre living in garbage and it doesnít have to be that way. Outside of Godís presence, your life is garbage, filth, and unwanted debris. Look at verses 6-10 ďI went down to the moorings of the mountains;The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God. 7 ďWhen my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple. 8 ďThose who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy. 9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.Ē10 So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.Ē (Verse 8 is important) What are vanities? Things you think are too important.
Brothers and sisters, why are you living in the belly of the fish? And why are your friends living in the belly of the fish? God commissioned Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach. He said ďIn 40 days, God is going to overthrow Nineveh.Ē You know what the people did? They repented and that was very unexpected. You know what that means? You and I donít decide who to tell about Jesus. In the process of saving your breath, youíre behaving like Jonah. Itís not for you to decide who will be saved and who wonít. We shouldnít judge people on who we think they are based on how sinful they are because something unexpected could happen. They could hear the gospel and be saved.
Why, friend, are you forsaking your own mercy? Youíre running behind things and donít have time for your soul.
These are some other verses describing what itís like living in the belly of the fish. When we turn our backs on righteousness and start doing what WE want to do and not what God wants us to do.
Proverbs 11:5, ďThe righteousness of the blameless will direct[a] his way aright,
But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.Ē When you run from doing right, the only thing left to you is wrong. And all the fruit it bears. Why are you choosing this? Why are you living like this?
Hereís the good news Church. You donít have to live like this. Salvation is in the Lord. He didnít come just to save my soul. He came to save your life! Look what Jesus says in John 10:10, ďThe thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.Ē
When you donít serve the Lord, you serve the devil, the father of all lies. ďI come that ye may have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.Ē I wasnít always this way. I had to come to this. Itís not this way in the beginning. It takes time. It takes growth. But youíve got to add to your faith: virtue, knowledge, temperance. It takes a continuous diet of that bread and blood.
You can have the life Jesus promised in Mark. It doesnít work until you leave ďall.Ē Itís not talking about selling your house or property or draining your savings. It means to lose all of MY will and follow HIS will. Iím going to be a Christian and Iím going to do it ALL the way, not part of the way. Iím going to give my All to Jesus, everything, to my Lord. You put Jesus Christ in front of all your family, your possessions, and everything in your life.
Jesus is Lord of Lord and King of Kings. Heís MY Lord. Heís worthy to be Lord of my life because He is the son of God.
You know when I became a Christian and I got to know my other brothers and sisters in Christ, if I get hungry, I can go to them and theyíll feed me. If I say, can I spend the night, theyíll prepare a bed for me. It will happen with any brother in this church. And if I get in my car and go anywhere in these United States of America, Iíll find the same thing among Godís people. Now you tell me if the rest of the world operates like that. You go to some people and tell them youíre hungry and see what happens!
Salvation is available but youíve got to choose it. You canít turn it on one day and turn it off the next. Thereís so many people that I want them to feel what I feel but theyíve got to want it for themselves.
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Sermon from Oct. 25, 2015
Deuteronomy 7:1-3 ďWhen the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, 2 and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. 3 Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son.Ē
This is a very practical lesson today. I am going to be discussing some sensitive matters and I know I have to be careful not to be crass about it but I do have to talk about it. I want you to understand that in the church of Christ we do not view sex as a dirty thing. God created it for enjoyment for the married relationship and procreation. Everybody in here is here because somebody had sex. If you havenít talked about sex with your children yet, you may be turning colors right now but thatís not my fault. For our young teens in here, we look forward to the day when you can enjoy it as an expression of love with your spouse. You may wonder what this has to do with Ruth. Well, it does.
In order for you to enjoy a sexual relationship, you have to find a spouse. Ruth had to find a spouse. So the subject of this lesson is ďhow to find a spouse, a life-long mate.Ē Ruth is the story of a young woman and an older man. Where we have gone wrong is in our pursuit of a life partner. Weíve got it all messed up. Weíve allowed things like television to give us wrong ideas about love.
Naomi was a woman of great virtue and I know this based on Ruth. The Bible doesnít say a lot about Naomi, the mother-in -law of Ruth, but itís implied. When the famine happened in Bethlehem, Judah, Elimilech decided to move his family from Judeah to Moab. He took his wife and his two sons and the Bible says they were there for 10 years. During that time, Mahlon & Chilion, married Ruth & Orpah. Then, Elimilech died followed by Mahlon & Chilion, leaving Naomi with 2 daughters-in-law. She then heard that God had visited and blessed Judah and she decided to go back. She told her daughters-in-law to go back to their own families in Moab. Ruth 1:16-17, ďEntreat me not to leave you,Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.Ē.
The connection I want you as a young person to get from this is, I want you to see yourself as Ruth. She recognized something in her mother-in-law, but she had to be open to it. She saw something that Orpah didnít see. Ruth knew that leaving Naomi would send her back to worshipping idols (paganism) like her parents did. She didnít want to do that. My question to you is, do you recognize virtue in people? Can you recognize it? Who are you listening to?
You know I donít like to label people but the Bible uses them but one name weíve heard is ďchicken head.Ē That means theyíve got the mind of a chicken. When you look at our culture you see some people acting with no more sense than a chicken. When youíve got your mind on stupidness & foolishness youíre a chicken-head. All you talk about is the superficial, meaningless things that go on in life. When we meet someone with character or substance comes into your presence and you canít recognize it because youíre thinking like a chicken-head. And some of these chicken-heads are walking around with their pants hanging down to their thighs, donít have a job and donít want a job. And ladies have no more sense than to support them with their welfare check.
And we men are no better. We tend to look at the outward appearance and not take time to see whatís on the inside. Ruth was able to recognize spirituality, godliness, virtue & honesty in her mother-in-law. So Ruth wanted to be just like her. So she followed her back to a life of hardship and the only thing to depend on was the generosity of kinsmen. The Bible says this about Boaz: he was a mighty man of wealth of the family of Elimilech, a man of substance. Young ladies, when youíre looking for a husband, you want a man of substance. He doesnít need to be wealthy, he just needs to be able to provide for his family.
There are some women with outstanding, great potential but they need to be sitting where youíre sitting now: under the word of God. Iím sad to say, church, but the chicken-heads are taking over. Itís going to get worse and worse. You wonder why the young people are shooting each other, and kids donít behave in school? Itís because weíve turned our children over to be raised by chicken-heads. All they care about is how to make it through the day. Thereís no more thought.
But Boaz was a man of substance. Ruth said to Naomi, ďLet me now go to the field and let me glean ears of corn in whose sight I shall find grace.Ē
Get your education, go to school, learn, study and be diligent about it. Ruth got up every morning and went to those fields. How do you expect God to bless you when you sit and do nothing. In order for God to bless Ruth, Ruth had to do something.
Ruth ended up in the field of Boaz just by chance. Boaz saw her and he asked his servants, who is that? And they said, ďThatís Naomiís daughter-in-law.Ē She was gleaning, which means picking up the leftovers that have fallen. Church, only God can make abundance over leftovers.
Finally, after Boaz saw how she was working, he told his workers, let her harvest right beside you. Ruth asked Boaz, ďWhy have I found favor in your eyes?Ē ďAnd Boaz answered and said to her, ďIt has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.Ē
In order to get the man you want, you have to BE that person youíre looking for. Thatís why chicken-heads marry chicken-heads. Youíve got to watch a person, and youíve got to check their fruit. You see a person whoís faithful, and their relationship with their family and friends, just keep watching.
You know, when you start going out with a person, getting to know each other, the first thing people want to do is jump in the bed with each other. You know thatís what happens on TV. What sex does, it can bring a child about in a home without the benefit of two parents, a father and a mother. Thatís Godís plan. We thumb our nose at Godís plan and do our own thing and then when we suffer for it, who do we blame?
Once you start having sex with a person, it clouds your decision making. You start seeing red flags but you try to justify everything since youíre already sleeping with him. Same thing with a young man. You start sleeping with a girl and then you see some red flags: she canít cook, she doesnít get along with her mom, but the sex is good so you try to keep her. You marry her and then you find out what I find out: sex is a very small part of the relationship. Oh, itís a good part, but itís a small part of the marriage relationship. Thatís why God says, ďKeep your pants on!Ē Watch out and be still and wait and observe and learn because in the process you will learn exactly what kind of a person this is.
Boaz said, ďListen, Iíve been watching you. I see how youíve taken care of your mother-in-law. Iíve seen what a good worker you are. And everybody knows what a virtuous woman you are.Ē Boaz was a man of wealth and honor. And see how the two came together? It takes time. Oh, we are in such a hurry. By the 3rd date, America says itís time to sleep with her. You let your chicken-head friends think like that. He canít even bring home a decent paycheck because Maryís getting a piece of it, Annís getting a piece of it, Susieís getting a piece of it, and Robinís getting a piece of it because heís had a kid with all of them. Heís a chicken head getting a chicken head paycheck.
Chicken heads canít recognize virtue because thereís nothing in their head!

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Sermon from Oct. 18, 2015 Brother Joseph Barr

II Corinthians 9:6-8 ďBut this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.Ē

I donít have a sermon for you this morning, but I do have a message. I want to encourage us this morning to just listen. Hopefully we will all leave this morning with a better appreciation of the congregation here in Conway. I want to start out by saying we donít have a real problem, but we do have concerns. I believe when our hearts are made right, then we will not have those concerns. You all know we are involved in a very precious work. We are in a mission field in a mission area. This church was started for the purpose of winning souls. I donít know whether you realize it or not because we donít talk about it much, but great good has happened as a result of our work here. I remind you that it was from this congregation that the work in Loris (church of Christ) is now proceeding. Brother Ram served with this congregation for 9 years and itís always been our design to start other works from this work. It is our desire to start other works when we are financially equipped to do so.
So, great things have happened. Souls have been saved and I have no doubt that more souls will be saved. But I want to impress on you that each of us, the young and old, is to take ownership of this work. We need every member to take ownership. For each one of us to say, ďI am a member of the church of Christ that meets at Conway, South Carolina.Ē This work has to become your work. Please donít say this is Brother Barrís work, or Brother Christyís, because thatís not trueÖitís for all.
With that in mind, Iím going to share a story with you and it comes out of the book of Ezra. It starts out, actually, with Daniel. You know of the great prophet Daniel. He was taken with 3 of his cohorts, Shadrach, Meshach & Abed-Nego, and they served under the King of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the city of Jerusalem and tore down everything that was sacred in the city. This was a great city and a great nation, but they had so sinned against God that God raised up a nation to destroy the city, tear it down brick by brick. And the children were taken into Babylonian captivity. I have no doubt that because of the great influence of Daniel, that he influenced every king that came after Nebuchadnezzar. He and his cohorts rose to the top because of the spirit of God in them. Finally, Cyrus became King of the Chaldeans. In the first year of Cyrus, God stirred him up to rebuild the temple. Daniel was still alive but he was an old man when Cyrus decreed he was going to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. This decree was taken up first by Zerubbabel. He was the one that actually rebuilt the temple. Then Ezra came on the scene to restore the spiritual teachings and doctrines of the nations. The thing I want to point out was this. When these folks had the opportunity to go back and rebuild, they were so excited and so happy, that the Bible tells us 43,360 people traveled back to the city of Jerusalem. The children of Israel that had returned in order to help rebuild the temple, the house of God, they all gave freely to build Godís house. They all took ownership. They were excited about going back to their homeland and they all gave. I want you to understand that it was God that stirred up the mind of Cyrus to do this. He restored all the things that were previously inside the temple. In other words, it takes money! They were making offerings on a daily basis to the same God that is our God today. The Bible says they were playing instruments as commissioned by King David and they were singing and giving a loud shout in the temple. People were crying tears of joy. They were all so happy to be able to worship God again in Godís house. The reason they were crying is because they all had ownership of what was being done. Read Ezra, youíll see what Iím talking about. They were celebrating, they were so happy. And they all gave because they took ownership.
You and I know better today than to call this building the House of God. This is just a building. But inside the building, the house of God (us) worships in this building. Itís right for us to have a buildingÖa central place for us to worship. It facilitates the work in Conway.
All of what you see is a part of the work of God. It takes money. It always did. And since it was God who commissioned the work to rebuild, why didnít God pay for it? Because the people had to pay for it but God owns everything. All the money you think is yours is not yours. It belongs to the Lord.
The point of the lesson is this: Brethren, our work shouldnít have to suffer because this is our work and this is the house of God (us.) This church does not prosper until we prosper. But I want us to have the same kind of feeling the church in Israel had. When their church was taken from them, and then it was restored, they cried tears of joy and they gave liberally to reestablish what was lost. The church we have now is far greater than that fleshly house built in Jerusalem. Our house is not made with hands. Our house is our hearts. Letís appreciate it like the children of Israel appreciated their physical church. It took money then and it takes money now. I feel bad about talking about money again but it takes ownership first. Letís not let Godís house suffer for whatever reason. ďHe who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.Ē
Letís do what we are sent here to do, and thatís appreciate Godís house. Godís house comes before my house.
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